News: Lt. Gen. Clarke’s priorities: Minimal budget turmoil, optimum force mix, concurrent modernization
Story by Sgt. 1st Class Jim Greenhill
WASHINGTON – Minimizing budget turmoil and working with the active duty Air Force and the Air Force Reserve to both find the optimum mix of forces and ensure concurrent modernization of the components of the total Air Force are the new director of the Air National Guard’s immediate priorities, he told Congress this week.
“The men and women of the Air National Guard are the most dedicated and professional in our nation’s history,” Clarke told Congress. “They performed admirably, both overseas and at home. They have earned our respect and thanks.”
Even before his formal acceptance of his new duties and responsibilities as director of the Air National Guard at a Friday ceremony at Joint Base Andrews, Air Force Lt. Gen. Stanley E. “Sid” Clarke III testified twice in two days on Capitol Hill, briefing congressional committees on the state of the Air National Guard.
On Tuesday, he appeared before the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Tactical Air and Land Forces as it held a hearing on maintaining the National Guard and the Reserves in a time of fiscal austerity.
The next day, Clarke was back on the Hill testifying to the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense about oversight of the National Guard.
“I have set three immediate priorities,” Clarke told Congress. “First, to minimize the dramatic toll (the) current budget turmoil (is) taking on the Air National Guard’s readiness – both its people and its equipment.
“Second, to work with the Air Force Reserve and the Air Force to provide an optimum mix of active, Reserve and Guard forces for a cost-effective national defense and robust domestic response capability.
“Finally, to ensure that all components (within) the total Air Force are modernized concurrently so that they remain relevant and interoperable between both the air components and the joint forces.”
Clarke experienced firsthand the result of an Air Force strategy to hold the Air National Guard and the Air Force Reserve to the same standards as the active-duty force when he was selected to command a 3,000-strong wing at the tip of the spear for operations in Iraq.
“The Air National Guard (was) selected to lead a mission – one of the very important (missions) for the kickoff of Iraqi Freedom – where we’re doing counter-Scud hunting in Western and Central Iraq,” Clarke said. “It was one of the top priorities by the administration just to make sure that we kept other nations out of that war.”
For the Air National Guard to play a full role like that example, it has to remain capable and relevant, Clarke said.
“We’ve done an outstanding job of meeting every requirement, every time, with great airmen, largely because the Air Force decided years ago to make sure that the Air National Guard members … meet the same standards, are inspected and are part of the Air Expeditionary Force,” Clarke said.
The Air National Guard continues to play a vital role in the nation’s defense, Clarke said, using an example close to home:
“As we’re sitting here right now, defending this capital, our Air Guardsmen, Army Guardsmen, and with a robust command and control structure … so this constitutional body doesn’t have to worry about air attack,” Clarke said. “It’s well-defended, and it’s done by Guardsmen.”
Among other Air National Guard issues that Clarke addressed with elected civilian leadership:
• Budget uncertainty: Sequestration and a continuing resolution risk affecting the Air National Guard’s readiness and slowing its modernization, Clarke said.
Possible furloughs of military technicians would impact readiness.
“The National Guard really rests on the use of our full-time force to train and administer our part-time force, but also to do operational duties,” he said.
• Support to service members: Continuing to fully fund programs that help Guard members, keeping equipment modernized and retaining operational missions are important to maintaining morale, Clarke said.
“They continue to volunteer at rates unheard of,” he said.
• Employment: Meeting with employers prior to deployments to express appreciation for their sacrifices and maintaining unit-level lists of Guard-friendly employers are among solutions to improve employment stability for Guard members, Clarke said.
• MAFFS: “The capability to suppress the fire is most helpful particularly in light of civilian air fleet reductions,” Clarke said.
The Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System also is important as a hedge against a significant oil refinery or nuclear power plant incident, he said.
• Training: Readiness exercises and training are critical to maintaining operational abilities, Clarke said, using the examples of C-130 Hercules and F-16 Fighting Falcon crews.
“It doesn’t matter if you like C-130s or an F-16: Those skills are perishable,” he said.
This work, Lt. Gen. Clarke’s priorities: Minimal budget turmoil, optimum force mix, concurrent modernization, by SFC Jim Greenhill, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.